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The federal government announced Friday a six-month delay on plans to auction wireless spectrum that can be used for 5G cellular networks.
In a news release, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason why he’s pushing the auction from December to June 15, 2021.
“Canada’s telecommunications service providers are doing their part in this difficult time, providing essential services to keep Canadians connected as we face the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic together. A number of providers have raised concerns, and the Government is implementing measures to address them,” Bains said in the news release.
“The Government will continue to reach out to telecommunications service providers — and to the private sector more broadly — to understand their challenges and support them to ensure that Canadians have access to high-quality networks and broad coverage at low prices.”
Canada’s large telecom networks run by BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., and Telus Corp. have already started building preliminary 5G networks, with Rogers already announcing it has activated its network in four cities — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.
However, the much faster fifth-generation wireless standard relies on blending low- mid- and high-frequency signals in the radio spectrum, and in Canada much of that spectrum has yet to be auctioned off for licensing.
Earlier this week BCE and Telus announced plans to move ahead with their wireless network by sourcing equipment from European suppliers Nokia and Ericsson. The telecom companies have been waiting for word on whether they will be allowed to use Huawei Technologies gear in their networks; the Chinese company’s equipment is significantly less expensive, but national security experts have raised concerns about potential for Chinese government interference in critical communications infrastructure.
The Bains announcement Friday did not give any update on the Huawei situation.
Telecommunications networks have remained stable, but the major shifts in traffic caused by COVID-19 social distancing requirements have caused strain on network infrastructure, and forced the big three telecom companies to work to maintain connectivity.
In an emailed statement, Telus spokesman Richard Gilhooley downplayed the significance of the delay.
“Because of our continued investment in building out communications infrastructure, Telus’ 4G LTE network speeds are among the fastest in the world; faster even than South Korea’s 5G network speeds, according to Opensignal,” Gilhooley said in an emailed statement.
“We have long been ready to make the crucial investment in 3500 MHz spectrum and network infrastructure required to realize the full promise of 5G so that Canadian entrepreneurs, businesses, and innovators can leverage the next generation of connectivity that promises to benefit us all.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020